PARENTS

Teenager With Autism Hugs And Kisses His Mum For The First Time After Getting A Shelter Dog

28/04/2015 11:27 BST | Updated 28/04/2015 11:59 BST

A 14-year-old boy who loathes physical contact has hugged and kissed his mum for the first time, thanks to a shelter dog.

Joey, from Los Angeles, was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome at the age of seven.

The condition, which is on the autism spectrum, can affect an individual's social interaction skills, communication, interests and behaviour.

Joey's mum, Amanda Granados, says since the family got a dog named Roxy a few months ago, life has been easier for her and her son.

"For all those years, he wouldn't hold my hand, he wouldn't hug me - it was all part of the autism - but this dog has taught him how to give and show affection. He holds my hand now. He hugs me. The first time I got a kiss on the cheek was when Roxy came home," she told TODAY.com.

Due to his difficulty reading emotions and identifying social cues, Joey has found it difficult to make friends at school.

But he's now found companionship in his new pit bull pup.

"If I've been having a bad day, Roxy can hear a tone in my voice," he said.

"She runs up to me to give me a giant hug and lick me to death and do almost anything she can to make me happy. It's amazing to have a friend like this."

Research suggests owning a pet may significantly increase "positive social behaviours" in children who have an autism spectrum disorder.

A 2013 study by The University of Queensland, Australia, found that children with autism engaged in 55% more social behaviours when they were with the animals, compared to toys.

"The presence of animals appears to encourage social interaction among children with autism," study author Marguerite O'Haire told HuffPost Parents at the time.

"Including an animal in children's playtime or home activities may be an effective way to encourage socialisation with other children as well as adults."

H/T: TODAY.com

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